WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Mark Pryor (D-AR), George Voinovich (R-OH) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), today introduced legislation to extend for five years the law that addresses a major homeland security vulnerability by strengthening security at our nation’s chemical facilities. The “Continuing Chemical Facilities Antiterrorism Security Act” would reauthorize the law that is now set to expire in October, providing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with sufficient time to fully implement the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards program. This program requires that our nation’s high-risk chemical facilities comply with certain minimum security standards.

The original law, signed in October 2006, authorized the Secretary of Homeland Security, for the first time, to mandate greater security at our nation’s chemical facilities to help prevent a terror attack and to shut down those facilities that do not comply with applicable security standards.

“One of our nation’s greatest vulnerabilities is the threat of a terrorist attack against a chemical facility,” said Senator Collins. “The Department of Homeland Security has done a remarkable job developing a comprehensive chemical security program. This industry is vital to our country’s economy and important to advancements and innovations in critical fields such as science, technology, agriculture, medicine and manufacturing, but it can also be a dangerous threat in the event of a terrorist attack. That is why it is critical that we enable the Department to continue this important work. The legislation passed by the House of Representatives would unwisely bring this progress to a screeching halt.”

“This bipartisan, common-sense legislation ensures chemical facilities remain on the top of their game in guarding against a potential terrorist attack,” Senator Pryor said. “I commend Senator Collins for her vigilant leadership in this arena.”

“In just under three years, the Department of Homeland Security has reviewed more than 24,000 facilities, and has selected more than 6,000 sites for coverage,” Sen. Voinovich said.

Senator Voinovich added, “But the safety of the American people remains our top priority, and this public-private partnership is still very much a work in progress. Decisions on Site Security Plans are still being issued, and this month DHS inspectors will begin site inspections for the highest risk facilities. As Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, I supported the one-year extension included in the FY2010 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, and I am proud to join with Ranking Member Collins and my colleagues in support of full implementation of this vital law.”

Senator Landrieu said, “Chemical manufacturers have made great strides in bolstering security around their plants. This bill will allow them the certainty and regulatory guidance to continue making those important investments.”

In November 2009, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would slow or even stop progress when it comes to securing chemical facilities in the United States and impose unnecessary and costly burdens on the economy. For example, the House bill would allow DHS to mandate that certain chemical facilities implement Inherently Safer Technology (IST) which could actually increase the security threat. As Senator Collins noted in her statement today on the Senate floor, “The decision to implement IST should be that of the owner or operator – not a Washington bureaucrat. This is neither necessary nor wise. Congress should not dictate specific industrial processes under the guise of security when a facility may choose other alternatives that meet the nation’s security needs.”